Like many folks across the globe, I spent the past two weeks with my eyes glued to the Olympics. And oddly enough, all of that sports-watching got me thinking even more about Gideon.
In Judges 6, after Gideon asks the angel of the Lord who he is talking to, the angel reveals to Gideon that God has chosen him to free Israel from the Midianite occupation.
In response, Gideon says, “But sir, how can I deliver Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” The angel reassures Gideon that God will be with him, and that God will ensure that he succeeds—which in most Old Testament call stories, would have been enough for the person being called to get on with it.
But not for Gideon. He proceeds to ask God for a series of elaborate signs, you know, just to be sure that he is really the guy who is supposed to lead Israel into battle. He even stumbles on his first assignment from God—only halfway doing what he was asked to do—because he was scared.
By our standards, Gideon wouldn’t be anywhere close to the medal podium. This guy would be considered an utter failure. But God commends Gideon for his faithfulness, and he even gets included in the book of Hebrews as an example of what faith looks like.
Faith, Gideon’s story seems to tell us, is less about being the best athlete on the track than it is about letting God’s strength bolster us up in our weakness, and trusting him to guide us across the finish line.
There is nothing inherently wrong with excellence. We are certainly allowed to have gifts and talents, and God definitely asks us to put effort into what we do.
But in God’s Kingdom, winning a gold medal is not the goal. Faith does not depend on you, on your ability to have mastered all of the skills, or to perfectly execute the task at hand.
Rather, faith depends on God. Faith is far more about what God does for us than it is about what we do for Him. And when we can let go of the idea that being a person of faith is equivalent to perfection, or to earning God’s approval based on our performance, we can make space for God to do what he does.
When we can be realistic about our weaknesses, and embrace our mediocrity, God can get even the worst high jumper over the bar. Or, if you’re tired of the sports metaphors, God can take the crappy bags of off-brand chips and the questionable meatballs that you brought to the potluck, and turn them into a feast.
It is OK to lack. It is OK to have an impoverished spirit. It is OK to not be as good at something as someone else is, and to make mistakes as we walk the road of discipleship.
It is OK to be weak, because when we are weak, God is strong. Where our faults create cracks, God’s grace and holiness smooth them back over.
The only trophy to be won here is the Kingdom coming in full, and the world being made right again—and that is a trophy that is not won by our own accomplishments, but by what God is accomplishing through us. It’s not about us being perfect and good, but about God being perfect and good.
So, take heart, Friends, and make room for God’s faithfulness.
Make peace with who you are, and let God be who He is, because our mediocrity is the way that leads to God’s wholeness.
Hannah Lutz is Pastor of Ada Chapel Friends Meeting.